Danni Gee is a multi-talented artist who began her career as a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey, then went on to grace the stage as a vocalist for legendary artists like Cher, Gloria Gaynor, Belinda Carlisle, and Kathy Sledge. She also creates soulful, moving anthems with her New York band Suga Bush. The band includes Shyn Digg, Howard Alper, Mike Barnes, Eric Wilson, and Steffany Bready. Danni kindly joined Artist Spotlight to discuss her diverse career and her devotion to worthy causes like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services).
Please share your experiences performing with legends like Cher and Gloria Gaynor.
It’s magical! Working with these legendary figures and seeing their professionalism and work ethics..I’ve learned a lot. With Gloria, I’ve become the “daughter she never had”…her words mind you. And to hear how she has persevered in the business, all the obstacles and heartache…she is really living “the song”! But watching her with the audience, with people one on one…her grace and patience, it’s remarkable. With Cher, well that was just a whole other level! Vegas, lights, 12 costumes changes! Incredible. But I found her to be so humble, and funny, and earthy…I love earthy people. She’s great with her band, her crew, everyone. No diva bullshit. Love it.
Tell us more about your band Suga Bush.
Suga Bush was born out of pain. I began my professional career as a dancer and made it all the way to becoming a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey. I suffered a really bad injury at the height of my career there and had to stop. Music has always been a part of my life, with church and high school, and as I healed, I buried myself in music and writing until someone suggested I start performing the songs. So I got some folks together and with their encouragement, the band was born. I got the name accidentally from a friend who was going skiing and I asked her where, and she told me, “Mount Sugar Bush in Vermont”. I laughed, because I have a dirty mind, but it was perfect…sexual, yet apropos, as I was also at the same time growing my hair out of the perm I was a slave to forever…and my hair was coming out all bushy.
What is the greatest inspiration for your songs on Suga Bush's A Love Odyssey album?
Love. Good love, bad love, part-time love, in between love, sista love…I’m a true Libra. In love with love.
Do you have a favorite song you have recorded or a song that is particularly dear to your heart?
My song “Monster”. It shows the strength and ferocity of a woman. It could be anyone really. Standing up to someone who is trying to put you down or hold you back. Most of my songs are pretty autobiographical…I always tell people, “Don’t piss me off because it will end up in a song!”
What is your all-time favorite song (by another artist)?
That’s really hard to answer…right now, my favorite song is by Chris Cornell, “Preaching the End of the World”. But Stevie’s “Golden Lady”, Marvin’s “What’s Going On”, …too many to list.
Is there any artist you dream of performing with someday?
Tina Turner, hands down.
What message would you like your music to convey to the listener?
Strength. Encouragement. Hope.
Name five adjectives that describe you as a person.
Honest. Funny. Vulnerable. Emotional. Sexual.
Name five adjectives that describe your music.
Honest. Funky. Eclectic. Loud. Sexy.
Name five performers who have influenced you most as an artist.
Tina Turner. Lenny Kravitz. Earth Wind and Fire. Marvin Gaye. Stevie Wonder…(lyrics, harmonies, energy)
Can you tell us more about the charities you support?
The biggest one I support is GEMS founded by Rachel Lloyd. It is to help young women in trouble, to give them encouragement and empowerment. To let them know they’re not alone. I also support the Make-A Wish Foundation. I’ve also donated to and performed quite a bit with Gloria at events for Susan G. Komen. Those are particularly important to me because my mother is a breast cancer survivor…twice over. To see those women at various stages of their illness singing and dancing along to “I Will Survive” just overwhelms me every time.
Which performance do you consider the highlight of your career, thus far?
With my band, probably our debut cd release show a few years ago in NYC. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work. I mean, we’ve had awesome shows since, but there was so much pride on that night for myself. To have overcome so much and to show the world what I had produced…that was pretty awesome. As a backing vocalist, working with Cher was definitely a highlight especially because on the show I had a solo!! And with Gloria, last year we appeared on The View…I got a big hug from Whoopi!
What projects will you be working on this year? Any plans to tour?
This year is all about putting out the sophomore CD. I’m trying to build our web presence which is sooo key these days. We’ll be doing small shows here and there, but it’s definitely all about recording. I’ll be gigging with Gloria so keep your eyes out if she comes to your city. Also I was recently contacted by Kathy Sledge’s (of Sister Sledge) people. I used to work with her as a backing singer and dancer. What can I say, I’m the “backing singer for the disco divas!” So I will be doing some touring with her as well. So you’ll be seeing Danni Gee one way or another!!!
(As a side note, I also work for New York City’s largest arts festival, SummerStage. I book all of the dance concerts so I still have my feet in the dance world as well!!!)
DANNI'S ADVICE FOR ASPIRING YOUNG ARTISTS:
Find your style and stick to it! It may adapt as you go along, but always follow your gut and your heart! Also, learn music theory so that as you're making music you can always teach people your music or also get work as a musician. Other than that, practice practice practice!!!!!
Thanks to Danni for sharing her time and talent. Check out Suga Bush's soulful debut album A Love Odyssey.
For more information about Susan G. Komen for the Cure, please visit http://ww5.komen.org/
For more information about Make-A-Wish Foundation, please visit http://www.wish.org/
For more information about GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Services), please visit http://www.gems-girls.org/
For more information about SummerStage, please visit: http://www.summerstage.org/